Inclusive respite care for families of children with disabilities, which involves their typical developing siblings, is sorely lacking in this area. A new local business is looking to change that.
TECpark began its journey to openness in 2018 with two parents, Alana and Steven Bennett, after their youngest son was diagnosed with autism in 2016.
After the diagnosis, the Bennett’s quickly noticed that resources for children with disabilities in Alamance and the surrounding counties were hard to come by and that there was very little to do that would involve her two children.
âWe found that there was nothing really inclusive and fun to do in this area,â said TECpark co-founder and CEO Alana Bennett. “We have an older child, and he’s what they call a typical development, so it was difficult to find a place that could accommodate the two kids.”
Bennett said she was a repairman, so when she and Steven recognized the problem, they found a way to fix it. âI wanted to solve the problem in the area, it’s the best way to start a business, helping to fill the need. So we made this trip, âshe said.
Their mission in launching TECpark was to specialize in providing a wide range of services for children and adults with disabilities, their siblings and parents. TECpark caters to many needs, but respite care – providing short-term relief to primary caregivers – is their specialty.
âMost businesses here don’t have accommodations for people with special needs, so we’re going to fill that void in the community as a place to drop off your child or loved one, regardless of their circumstances. capabilities, âBennett said. noted.
Inclusiveness is one of TECpark’s top priorities. In this case, inclusiveness is about providing a place not only for people with disabilities, but also for their typical developing siblings and primary caregivers. Bennett maintains that it benefits everyone involved.
âIn my personal experience, as a caregiver of our youngest son, he learns best when he’s in an inclusive environment, as he learns from his typical developing peers,â Bennett said. “For my eldest son, it taught him more compassion, to understand that people are different, not everyone will be the same, everyone does not see life the same way, but they should not be excluded. and put them in a corner. “
Deb Grener, Senior Program Facilitator for TECpark, echoed this sentiment. âIt’s good both ways, because the non-typical will learn social skills and observe behavior,â she said. “For other children, it’s good to learn this acceptance.”
In January 2022, TECpark will open a new facility at 2241 Handford Road, Suite 107, Burlington. Once this location opens, the plan is to provide services to children and adults of all abilities, ages three and up. These services will include, but are not limited to, evening and weekend respite care, day programs, public and private events, pop-up camps and parent / guardian support.
But, in recent months, TECpark has been mobile, hosting pop-up events, often at local parks and community centers.
“Go to the parks [for pop-up events] has really been a great way to get our name out there, âsaid Grener. âWe were in Orange County, we did two at Gold Park, we did two at Graham Regional Park, and we were in Northeast Park in Guilford County.â
And, on November 12 and 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., TECpark will be hosting an event in Mebane – Movie & Pizza Night at Historic Woodlawn School. Registration, which costs $ 25 per child, is required no later than three days in advance and can be done online at www.yourtecpark.com.
Movies shown each time will be rated G. Masking and other Covid-19 protocols will be followed, but TECpark understands that some children cannot wear masks and will adapt to that. Bennett brought up the purpose of events, like this one.
âIt’s a form of respite care, because parents can drop their child off and go have an appointment, go cook or whatever they want to do,â Bennett said. âWe’ll have games, paint, a fun movie and pizza, and maybe popcorn. Just, again, to give parents, caregivers a break, and to get the kids out. “
Over the summer, TECpark hosted a pet therapy event – where Pet Partners brought eight therapy dogs and a therapy bird that the children in attendance can interact with. They plan to keep doing things like this and movie night when possible.
One of TECpark’s main goals is to make sure that everyone who attends one of its pop-up events is engaged, even if not everyone is focused on the main draw.
âMaybe a kid isn’t interested in the event, but we can have Legos and they can go and play with Legos just by being in the environment and seeing things,â Bennett said. âOur regular pop-ups, we would go out and we would have anything from Connect Four to Giant Jenga just to get the kids involved and ditch electronics.â
Being a young company, especially emerging from the pandemic – which upset their plans – TECpark is looking for volunteers, called friends, to come and help at events.
âI know we’re going against sports and other school events, so we’re flexible,â Bennett said. âIf you can only volunteer once or every two months, we want to get you involved. “
TECpark is open to volunteers of all levels over 14 years old. Bennett and Grener both commented that pals play an important role in the lives of children who pass through TECpark. People can also find out more and register on the TECpark website (link above).
Bennett noted that TECpark will be a place where children and young adults can have fun and relax, but it will also be a place that improves them, teaches them invaluable communication, life and social skills that they can. use around the world.